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College football: Catawba struggles at Newberry, falls 40-10

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

NEWBERRY, S.C. — On Saturday afternoon at Newberry’s Setzler Feld, Catawba suffered its most lopsided South Atlantic Conference loss since a 33-point mauling in the 2013 finale at Lenoir-Rhyne.

Catawba fell to the Wolves, who were celebrating Senior Day, 40-10.

After Catawba’s Lee Brackman kicked an early field goal for a 7-3 deficit, Newberry scored the next 33 points to take a 40-3 lead.

“It didn’t help that we didn’t have our most explosive offensive weapon (Kenyatta Greene), and it didn’t help that we had two offensive linemen out who could have helped us protect,” Catawba head coach Curtis Walker said. “But the bottom line is we didn’t play enough to win a ballgame, while Newberry played very well.”

Catawba tried to establish a running game, but went three-and-out to start the game. Then Newberry (5-5, 3-3) went 71 yards on just four plays for the TD that got things rolling.

“We let them run around and extend plays and make big plays,” Walker said. “Our problems started early.”

Catawba had a chance to get even when linebacker L.J. Melvin recovered a fumble on the Newberry 13, but the Indians failed to punch it in. They settled for Brackman’s field goal.

Newberry led after a quarter, 10-3. Then the second quarter proved disastrous and decisive for the Indians (3-6, 2-4).

Alex Smith’s 25-yard pick-six and the second of Kevin Weber’s four field goals stretched  Newberry’s lead to 20-3. Thirty-six seconds before halftime, Greg Ruff threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Markell Castle, and it was 27-3 at the break.

Catawba allowed a 72-yard kickoff return by Chance Walker to start the second half. That set up another Newberry score, and the deficit swelled to 34-3.

“We had a couple of our special teams mainstays out today, too,” Walker said. “It was a tough day. A tough day, all around.”

Catawba’s lengthy scoring drought finally ended when quarterback Ken Avent III scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 75-yard drive with 4:43 left to play.

Avent provided almost all of Catawba’s offense with 126 rushing yards and 107 passing yards, but he was sacked four times.

DB Mike Miller led Catawba’s defense with 14 tackles.

Caleb Berry boomed nine punts for an average of 50.6 yards, including a 68-yarder.

Ruff had a big day for the Wolves, throwing for 224 yards and two scores.  Castle had five catches for 105 yards. A committee of backs pounded out 238 rushing yards for the Wolves on 41 carries.

Catawba only reached the red zone three times and was 3-for-14 on third-down conversions.

“We’ve got to get the spark back this week and start putting down a strong foundation for next season,” Walker said.

Catawba will have a losing season, after going 9-2 a year ago.

It doesn’t get easier. Next for the Indians is a trip to Hickory to play SAC champ and nationally-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne.

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